Christie Administration Out With New Memo Attempting To Move Past Bridge Scandal

Feb 5, 2014 4:30am

Chris Christie’s Administration is out with another memo to friends and allies attempting to ease the fears of supporters as the lane closures scandal continues to engulf the New Jersey governor.

ABC News has exclusively obtained their latest memo and this one is a five-part list attempting to move past the scandal.

The first section titled “Gov Gets Back to Business” touts Christie’s work to help families impacted by Superstorm Sandy and mentions the next phase of distribution for storm disaster funding.

The second section titled “The Answer is Unequivocally No” revisits coverage from Christie’s radio interview Monday night where he said he “unequivocally” had no knowledge of the political plot behind the lane closures. It was Christie’s first interview since former political ally David Wildstein alleged “evidence exists” he knew about the lanes closure earlier than he has let on. Wildstein has not revealed any evidence and no evidence has been uncovered showing a direct link between the governor and the closing of the lanes by aides as a form of political payback.

The third section again goes after the New York Times, as their second memo also did. And as the first memo attempted to discredit former political ally-turned-foe Wildstein, the fourth and fifth points attempt to discredit Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer highlighting some of the contradictory statements she has given, including whether she regularly keeps a diary or not. Last month, on the heels of the developing lanes closure scandal, Zimmer accused the Christie administration of threatening to withhold Sandy relief funds if she did not back a development deal in Hoboken favored by Christie.

The state legislative committee investigating the lane closures say they will also look into Zimmer’s allegations.

Subpoenaed documents for the state investigation from 20 people or entities involved were due Monday. The committee says while they have received some cooperation, some entities have received extensions. Others, including former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelley — who wrote the now damning “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email to Wildstein — declined to cooperate with the committee investigating the scandal by invoking the Fifth Amendment. Wildstein also took the Fifth during a hearing last month, and Christie’s former political guru Bill Stepien also notified the Legislature on Friday that he would be taking the Fifth.

It’s not just the administration trying to get back to normal.  Christie will be hitting the road this week making stops in Dallas and Fort Worth, Tx. Thursday to raise funds for the Republican Governors Association, where he serves as chairman. Next week he will speak to the Economic Club of Chicago, then will headline an afternoon RGA fundraiser as well as an RGA fundraising dinner in Chicago. On Feb. 18, Christie will speak to the NRSC winter retreat in New York City and also later this month he has two different events, as well as fundraising in Washington, DC. And after being snubbed last year, Christie will speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland next month.

Christie will also be traveling  Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, and Utah, all in the near future.

READ THE FULL MEMO HERE:

1. GOV GETS BACK TO BUSINESS: This afternoon, Governor Christie was in a Shore town meeting with Sandy-impacted homeowners and discussing the administration’s plan to distribute the second round of Sandy disaster funds.

  •  The AP wrote up the event: Gov. Chris Christie said on Tuesday he understands the frustration of Superstorm Sandy victims who still haven’t gotten their homes or their lives back together 15 months after the storm, the state’s worst natural disaster. The Republican, making good on a promise not to let the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal engulfing his administration get in the way of day-to-day governing, visited a firehouse and met with a few residents in Keansburg, a blue-collar Raritan Bay community hard hit by the October 2012 storm.

2. THE ANSWER IS UNEQUIVOCALLY NO.  The Sandy event came on the heels of last night’s radio interview where the Governor made it crystal clear he had nothing to do with the planning, development or execution of the George Washington Bridge issue.

  • The Associated Press: “Christie Says He Sought Answers On Lane Closures”
  • The Wall Street Journal: Governor Is Steadfast On Bridge”
  • Politico: “Chris Christie Pushes Back Hard”
  • The Washington Post: “Christie: ‘Unequivocally’ Unaware Of Traffic Plot”
  • CNN: “Christie Intensifies Push Back Of New Traffic Jam Allegation”

3. NYT FINALLY ADMITS THEIR STORY WAS WRONG. The reporter responsible for Friday’s sloppily-written story on the bombshell that wasn’t continued her mea culpa media tour. Last night on NJTV, she admitted to a local television host in an interview – her fourth in the last 36 hours – that the story was “wrong and we fixed it very quickly.”

  • The Weekly Standard picked up the video: Although Wildstein claimed that “evidence exists” that Christie knew about the lane closures, the New York Times initially reported that Wildstein “had the evidence to prove it.” Christie’s office is now highlighting an interview with Kate Zernike, the author of the New York Times story, in which she acknowledged that the initial report was inaccurate.

4. CNN: HOBOKEN MAYOR “FULL OF CONTRADICTIONS”: After two weeks of glowing press coverage, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer came under scrutiny when CNN did a deep dive into her past, and found serious questions of authenticity, contradictions and hypocrisy. The whole story is worth a read, and is available here. Some highlights.

  • Diary Raises Questions Of Authenticity Much of Zimmer’s allegations are based on a diary in which she says she took contemporaneous notes of her conversations with Guadagno and Constable. But court records reviewed by CNN show that, in some cases, Zimmer doesn’t take notes when talking about city business.
  • CNN Obtained Documents -Contradict Zimmer Story About Marc Ferzan January 20, Zimmer told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that another state official had tied Sandy recovery money to development; she said she felt pressured by Marc Ferzan, who heads up New Jersey’s storm recovery. But, according to notes from the November 25 meeting taken by a source in the room, Zimmer spoke twice during the Sandy recovery briefing that included about 20 state and local officials. And neither time Ferzan addressed Zimmer’s concerns did it appear he was pressuring her, according to the notes.
  • “Pot Calling The Kettle Black” The executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority sued Zimmer, arguing she created “an unwritten policy of political patronage or ‘pay to play’ to reward … political supporters,” according to court documents. The director, Carmelo Garcia, accused a Zimmer ally of threatening his job unless he appointed Zimmer’s choice for general counsel. Garcia told CNN, “I’ve been subjected to political bullying, I have been harassed, intimidated and retaliated against, simply because I had blown the whistle and I did not want to partake in a scheme that would require the mayor using the housing authority, which is supposed to be an autonomous entity, to basically give out contracts to politically connected law firms.”He called Zimmer’s claims against Christie “ironic … almost like the pot calling the kettle black.”

5. REPORT SURFACES OF ZIMMER SHUTTING DOWN SANDY PROJECTS OVER POLITICS: In the “you can’t make this stuff up” category, today a report emerged on the Daily Caller about Zimmer allegedly shutting down a Sandy project in Hoboken to punish one of her political enemies.

  • DC story here: The Democratic mayor that accused New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie of withholding Hurricane Sandy relief money has been accused of politicizing a post-Sandy project over political feuds herself. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer shut down a tourism website designed to help the city’s post-Sandy business community because one of the design firm’s co-owners declared his candidacy for City Council against one of Zimmer’s allies, according to 2013 claims by Tisha Creative co-owners Joe Mindak and Kevin Cale, made before the Hoboken City Council. The city of Hoboken even confirmed that they shut down the project due to the election and that they wanted to give the project to another firm.
ABC News’ Josh Margolin contributed to this report. 
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